WekaIO: Scaling To The Rise Of Data

Michael Raam, President & CEO It was a fascinating scene for the spectators at the Flash Memory Summit held earlier this year in Santa Clara, as a team from San Jose was bludgeoning conventional wisdom about legacy external storage. Aptly named WekaIO—Weka denotes ten raised to the power of 30, several notches above Peta, Zetta and Yotta—the company teamed up with Intel to demonstrate its native Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) system. The technology demonstration previewed a whopping 3 million IOPS for 1PB of data in a 1U rackspace. The implications of this ability come to light at a time when enterprises are seeking to extract maximum business value from their data, but are challenged to effectively manage and monetize the huge waves of data flooding their systems persistently.

Traditional backup and disaster recovery (DR) solutions conveniently sidestep this challenge, forcing organizations to endure the expensive and resource draining process of replicating monumental volumes of data from a primary system onto tape or disk-based systems on a recurring basis. The only way to recover and access that valuable data would be a process even more elaborate than the one needed to put it there to begin with. Having proven their ability to radically disrupt the concept of file storage, WekaIO brings a new wave of continuum and efficiency to this process. WekaIO aims to turn storage into a utility by providing the ability to snapshot data and associated metadata as backup to object store and the cloud— whether private or public—in an ongoing, accessible and easily manageable manner. In this way, the data is always accessible to the applications—wherever and however it’s stored.

“Enterprises want their data to be live. Traditional disk-based systems and tape still have their place in a data management strategy as more of a first stage and catastrophe final line of defense, respectively, but the workflow comes with a rise in CAPEX and OPEX in proportion to the increase in data managed,” says Michael Raam, president and CEO of WekaIO. “WekaIO provides continuous data protection at costs 80 percent lower than legacy systems, while at the same time ensuring scalability both in performance as well as capacity.” With a file system optimized for flash, WekaIO is a true scale-out storage system that future proofs your IT infrastructure and allows customers to realize the promise of the cloud in two ways.

Tiering Cold Data from Compute to the Cloud

Firstly, the WekaIO system allows the administrator to transparently tier or migrate, either cold data or entire directories of file systems to the cloud on a policy driven basis. This way, at any given point in time, there is always a backed-up snapshot of the data stored either on premise or at other DR location in a private or public cloud. The customer can automatically backup the cold data to an on premises object store or hybrid cloud, based on policies.
The customer allocates Solid-State Disks (SSDs) to support the hot data on the compute servers, and can spin up cores as needed to linearly scale application performance. Raam further explains “any dataset that has not been accessed in excess of the tiering policy would be considered as cold data and will be migrated to the cold tier.” Since all data, wherever it is stored, is referenced under a single namespace, data is instantly accessible to any application. WekaIO’s policy-based tiering provides a huge opportunity for cost savings for their customers since they need not purchase additional hardware for cold data backup and a separate backup solution to manage the process.

We’re headed toward a scenario where the public-private cloud delineation will wane, and storage will become a utility

The automatic tiering capabilities proved fruitful for a large electronic design automation (EDA) company whose software development team was using WekaIO’s shared file system for agile deployment of code. Here the developers could collaborate in real time while writing software and compiling the code. Meanwhile, the EDA team within the company, who were involved in chip design, simulation and tapeouts, wished to hold the previous tapeout databases in a cold tier, while still retaining access to the data for future use. With WekaIO, the customer was able to reference and replenish cold data at any given point in time, since all their data, both hot and cold, were equally accessible and the user didn’t have to worry about its delineation. The EDA team was able to reduce design time and shorten time to market thus improving the customers’ bottom line.

For another EDA company, WekaIO is being evaluated to replace hundreds of legacy NAS systems that connected to thousands of their servers used for chip simulations. Usage of these legacy systems meant that the customer had to take an image of the chip, replicate it and load it onto the hundreds of NAS appliances. If a bug was found during simulation, the engineers would modify the design, load the image into the database, and repeat the replicate-load process. This is a versioning nightmare for the senior management. Instead, with WekaIO, all servers can be connected to a single cluster under WekaIO’s namespace. Now, if a bug is found during the simulations, the customer needs to only feed the updated image to one single database. WekaIO’s NVMe capabilities not only trumped NAS’ performance and bandwidth metrics but also provided the ease of data management and access and capacity to tier to the cloud.

The Promise of On-Demand Resources

Secondly, Cloud bursting which is a cost-effective method of responding to application demands without excessive CAPEX or OPEX expenditures.
Here the administrator can copy a snapshot of the data and metadata to a public cloud and then provision a cluster temporarily in the cloud. For instance, if a customer using 100 on premise servers for a particular computing project realizes the need to increase the computation capabilities to that of 500 servers, it would normally mean the purchase and provisioning of additional servers to do the job. Instead, with WekaIO, the customer can obtain compute resources on demand by cloud bursting to public services such as Amazon AWS EC2 with S3 storage. The data moves seamlessly from an on-premises to public cloud environment and the customer gets to leverage on-demand compute to complete the project faster, with no additional CAPEX outlay. After the computing process, the customer can snapshot the data back to an on premises object store, rehydrate their servers, and collapse the cluster on a public cloud.

The customer can also use the cloud snapshotting capability to bring up compute services at an alternate location, serving as an effective DR solution in the event of a major data center outage. “The ability to snapshot an entire file system to a public cloud service and rehydrate both the compute and storage in the cloud is a very cost-effective DR policy,” states Raam. “More importantly, we maintain a really good recovery point objective (RPO) and RTO model for our customers.”

All of WekaIO’s multi-directional value has been created by unearthing a new approach that transcends traditional file systems,which were written during the ‘days of the hard disk drive.’ WekaIO’s cloud-native, distributed parallel file system was written for flash and eliminates the need for the old network-attached storage (NAS) systems. According to Raam, the philosophy behind such innovation is heavily influenced by the people at WekaIO. “We have a rich DNA in storage innovation and we listen to our customers and their needs. Data is king and we want to help our customers stay competitive by providing them reliable and instant access to their data. We’re headed toward a scenario where the public-private cloud delineation will wane, and there will only be a compute environment, and it won’t matter to the user where the data resides. We aim to lead that digital transformation.” When asked about what drives him at an individual level, Raam jokes that his competitive spirit can be attributed to his love of sports. “When I commit my time to something, then I want to dominate the playing field.” As was apparent in the product demonstration with Intel at FMS.

"WekaIO provides continuous backup at cost 80 percent lower than legacy NAS"

At a broader level, WekaIO’s partnerships with several big names in the industry have positioned the company as a frontline proponent in bringing a new wave of NVMe file services that do not require proprietary hardware. Following popular customer demand, the company also plans to bring Asynchronous DR as an additional capability. “There is a significant opportunity around the corner for WekaIO to integrate all the different competencies within our storage system and become a single, hardware-agnostic vendor for our customers,” adds Raam. “We are bringing multiple pieces of the puzzle together for our customers and giving them true scalability, ease of use and reliability of storage.”


San Jose, CA

Michael Raam, President & CEO

WekaIO’s accessible and manageable backup solution provides the ability to tier and snapshot data and metadata to object store and public/private cloud